Plan to use satellites to monitor British motorists

Apr 22, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Britain may soon be using global positioning satellites and advanced speed cameras with number plate recognition technology to track speeding motorists, and according to a report released by the House of Commons, the system can be installed and operated at relatively low cost.

The system, dubbed SpeedSpike, is undergoing effectiveness and accuracy trials at two locations in London and Cornwall, with the AA (Automobile Assocation) monitoring the tests. The AA said they were watching the trials carefully, but do not regard the development as sinister, but a “natural evolution” of technologies already in use. They said they believed the system is probably intended for residential areas, and it would cover a network of roads rather than just a straight line.

A network of the devices could monitor thousands of vehicles over big areas, with cameras communicating with each other and using GPS information to calculate the average speed of vehicles between any two network locations. The cameras would use the same technology as is currently used in London to enforce their congestion charge, and would be similar to a system of average speed recorders used to monitor speeds around roadworks on major roads.

The system was developed by PIPS Technology Ltd., a Texas-based company with an office in Hampshire, and is said to be easy to install and affordable. The House of Commons report described the system as being capable of recognizing number plates in all weathers, and at any time of day or night. It also suggested the system could cut the need for speed bumps, and might “eliminate rat-runs”. Rat run is the term used for using residential side streets and other minor roads to avoid and traffic lights on main roads.

Doubts have been raised by civil rights groups about the ethics of the system, with Geoffrey Cox, a conservative politician from an area near the test site in Cornwall, querying whether it is necessary to spy on and film motorists. He warned that it may become routine, and said it should never be routine for the state to spy on its citizens.

At present the system is under test, and has not yet been granted approval for use.

Explore further: Switzerland tops innovation rankings for fourth year

More information: SpeedSpike data sheet (PDF)

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User comments : 28

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eric_in_chicago
5 / 5 (5) Apr 22, 2010
we in the USA and these folks are supposed to be the pinnacle of civilization?

what's so great about automating a police state?

"the system can be installed and operated at relatively low cost."

it's not a low cost to my free will and civil rights.
Skeptic_Heretic
Apr 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Bonkers
5 / 5 (6) Apr 22, 2010
Hmm, legislation creep...
originally the sanctions laid down for driving a vehicle at excess speed required one to be pursued by a police car with lights flashing for 1/3 mile.
"Fair Cop" you might say.
How this transformed into an "eye of Sauron" monster i don't know. Our legislation on hunting was a bad start, established the precedent for 'i don't care if what you're doing affects me or anyone else, but i don't want you doing it'
There is no shortage of vigilantes who equate speed with death, despite science finding a less than 30% correlation between excess speed and vehicle accidents (and this includes, erroneously in my opinion, driving too close).
Most accidents are due to inattention, my concern is that vigorous enforcement of limits will result in other time-saving behaviour (as has been demonstrated in trials of hard-limited 30mph cars) such as suicidal pulling-out, etc.
Bad Science at its intrusive worst.
JimB135
5 / 5 (3) Apr 22, 2010
The company that developed the system is is Texas. They have plans to try and sell this here in the US?

If they can track your speed over a series of roads that means the know exactly where you've been as well.

Wow.
Egnite
not rated yet Apr 22, 2010
Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't GPS rely on the motorist having a transmitting unit in the vehicle? Can't see many motorists purchasing one so they maximise their speeding fines.
Bonkers
Apr 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
trekgeek1
1 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2010
I'm for it. I don't care if a traffic system knows where I am. It will do more good than harm. I'm actually sitting in an intelligent transportation systems lecture on gps right now.
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2010
Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't GPS rely on the motorist having a transmitting unit in the vehicle? Can't see many motorists purchasing one so they maximise their speeding fines.


Wrong, it requires a receiving unit.
baudrunner
5 / 5 (6) Apr 22, 2010
England is already by far the most surveilled country in the world. You thought that telephone poles and hydro lines were an eyesore, the most ubiquitous shadow cast by anything in England is the pole-mounted surveillance camera. We're dealing with a strange mentality here - that peculiar obsession with murder mysteries, and a secret urge for life to follow the art of "1984". Brrr...
bg1
5 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2010
This is bad news. Don't think this information will be limited strictly to speed enforcement. Now all of our movements can be tracked in real time by whoever. Maybe I should give up driving.
AnnieG
5 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2010
Like all these things when people say they can't see a problem, they are usually introduced for what appears to be a trivial reason. But it is what the people who control them use them for in the future that is the most worrying. Street cameras are already being turned against citizens for things they were never intended such as burgeoning wheelie bins. One can envisage a time in the near future when motorists are being rationed on mileage and the spy in the sky will already be in place.
otto1923
2.4 / 5 (7) Apr 23, 2010
the ethics of the system
The ethics of whether people have the right to break the law w/o getting caught?
querying whether it is necessary to spy on and film motorists. He warned that it may become routine, and said it should never be routine for the state to spy on its citizens.
Thats what licence plates are for. A cop should risk his life in a patrol car chasing down some asshole when a camera can do the same thing more safely and efficiently? 'Spy' = polarizing buzzword. Your moral objections all stem from your desire to cheat. Laws are the cage and cheating gives you animals the illusion of escaping it.
NotAsleep
5 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2010
"Speeding" is unconvicing as a crime. Speed limits are primarily used to increase safety. However, saying someone is driving "over the speed limit" isn't the same as "someone is going to get into an accident". It's like convicting someone of a crime before it's committed. Why not just greatly increase the punishment on ACTUAL crimes, like causing an accident?

Much the same argument is used on illegal drugs, even though many illegal drugs aren't nearly as dangerous as other, legal substances
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 23, 2010
@notasleep
You could say the same for drunken driving. Speeding increases the possibility of accidents and who is to say you're any better at it than me? Again, you're arguing because you think special priviledge is a right, and YOU should have a fair chance at breaking laws without getting caught. It's the same animalistic mindset which caused this last economic crisis. Every human wants to be special. Get over it.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2010
Speaking of freedom, speeding is also one of the few crimes in the US that you are pronounced Guilty before innocent. Interesting how that fits the judicial system.
fixer
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2010
In Europe, an old CD/DVD half inserted behind the licence plate is the usual way of minimising this niusance.
"Speeding" is an opinion, usually not yours! and legal speed limits do not change dependant on weather and traffic conditions except on freeways with electronic signs.
Safe driving is what matters.
otto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 23, 2010
@SH
And with a clear picture of your face behind the wheel and your licence plate, what's to argue? Technology may soon make presumed innocence a formality- by the time you get to the courtroom your culpability will be known beyond all doubt. Your leash feeling a little tight? It's called a restoration of causality to the human condition: you jump off a bridge, you WILL get hurt. Punishment becomes inevitable- who needs lawyers halleluyah! In nature reward is the absence of punishment, it means you've learned something. Good boy-
@fixer
Obeying the law whether natural or man-made, is what matters. You wanna fix wall street or not?
UKtheBUNNY
not rated yet Apr 24, 2010
It's getting harder and harder to be a villain in these times.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2010
@SH
And with a clear picture of your face behind the wheel and your licence plate, what's to argue? Technology may soon make presumed innocence a formality- by the time you get to the courtroom your culpability will be known beyond all doubt. Your leash feeling a little tight? It's called a restoration of causality to the human condition: you jump off a bridge, you WILL get hurt. Punishment becomes inevitable- who needs lawyers halleluyah! In nature reward is the absence of punishment, it means you've learned something. Good boy-

Because evidence, and authoritarians aren't corruptable.....
otto1923
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2010
I would much rather be judged by machine intelligence than by any corruptable human. If I'm guilty I'm guilty. I resent having to waste my time exploiting the opportunity to cheat like everybody else. Our systems of laws, taxes, government, economics are configured to favor scofflaws who want to cheat. Machines will free us from this and the predation of others who are better at it than we are.

Living in a cooperative society means we all have to sacrifice a little, some of the time. Machines will ensure that we are not taken advantage of because of it.
fixer
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2010
otto1923 - You are probably right, and older society will probably agree.
But, This limits free will and is against human nature.
Machines don't understand emotion, you can't legislate against cats chasing mice, or ivy growing up a tree!
Humans develop by pushing the bounderies and machines will prevent that.
I want my children to reach for the stars, not live in a controlled environment like someones pet.
Sometimes, Big Brother needs to mind his own business!
mgb
5 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2010
@otto1923
Do you live in your mum's basement?
This is more intrusion. This sets yet another bad precident. Once the ability is there to monitor everything we do, any inane law is enforceable.
Maximum 3 beers in the pub. Brush your teeth 3 times per day. And so on... This is where civilization is headed?
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 25, 2010
But, This limits free will and is against human nature
So is just about any aspect of modern society. Domestications a bitch.
@mdb
Your lawbreaking is an intrusion. Ask your mom why it's good to be polite. 'But WHY mommie?' GimmeIwantIneed
-Didnt mean to 5/5 you my finger slipped-
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 25, 2010
Machines don't understand emotion
Exactly. Justice is supposed to be blind. I don't want my judge to be a corruptable, emotional, distracted, fallible, defective human. Who said human nature is a good thing when dealing with logic, reason, fairness, sound judgement, and lawyers?
mgb
4.7 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2010
@otto1923
I'm trying to think of a nice way to say "moron". Don't want to be banned...
A few orations ago, you tried to insult our collective intelligence by comparing physical laws with man-made laws. "Obeying the law whether natural or man-made, is what matters."
I may well be speeding while I type this... to no consequence. lol I'm surely not falling from a building. (and thus subject to law of gravity). Whilst you and the social engineers devise ways of monitoring us, others live happily offending no one.
Cease and desist otto. Is "knuckle head" nicer than "moron"?
Shootist
3 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2010
we in the USA and these folks are supposed to be the pinnacle of civilization?

what's so great about automating a police state?

"the system can be installed and operated at relatively low cost."

it's not a low cost to my free will and civil rights.


The operating principle here is, "we can do something, so we must".

It is similar to attempts several years ago in the 'States to monitor marijuana grow houses through the indiscriminate use of of Forward Looking Infra-red mounted on helicopters. Fortunately for basic liberties the Supreme Court through the laws out as an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

The government that serves least serves best, anything else is an existential threat to freedom.
otto1923
1 / 5 (2) Apr 25, 2010
I'm trying to think of a nice way to say "moron". Don't want to be banned...
I'm trying to think of a nice way to say "twat". Hope ya get caught. So you're saying that it's ok to be subject to natural laws, say limits that nature originally put on our reproductive rate through predation, disease, starvation and such, but it's ok to break laws which society as a whole enacts to make itself function properly? You don't see these two conditions as being essentially the same? We freed ourselves from our ancient enemies but this requires human laws to keep us from killing each other from competition. It requires the legalization of birth control and abortion to help stem growth. It requires outlawing private armies for instance, and ensuring that everyone obey the same laws and the same authority. What makes you think you're so special? Your mum tell you so?
otto1923
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2010
The operating principle here is, "we can do something, so we must".
Now shootist, you don't believe that in all cases? Not without the caveat "unless it impinges on the legitimate rights of others"? That would enable others in your mind to do the same to you, including stealing your money and beating you up 'cause you're ugly, right?
bluehigh
3 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2010
IF this was not about saftey and speeding, what would the motive be? Watching the merry-go-round seems rather pointless when all our electronic communications can be tracked and traced.
MikeLisanke
not rated yet May 01, 2010
When everyone is forced to obey traffic laws, will public transportation will be more popular?